Last term I wrote on student use of ICT, and of our students developing and employing contemporary skills as a core component of their education; including the Surface Pros allowing for greater scope with their learning than ever before – with collaboration, communication, critical thinking on information and creation in relevant and new ways. I also discussed our policies to support this use, the way we manage the use of smart phones and how we regularly educate students on having a positive and respectful online footprint as well as safe online behaviours.
Further to this, consider the ubiquitous nature of ICT and how it has quickly infiltrated our daily routines, whether professional, recreational or social. There is now a device, website, application or program that will likely make our experience easier, (perhaps richer?) or quicker in almost any situation. This rapid proliferation of ICTs has forced us to up-skill at an equally rapid pace. It can certainly be difficult to stay abreast of the stunning progress ICT makes. Consider the functionality of mobile phones now and compare it to those of only five years ago. The facility of wireless internet has transformed the device ‘just used to make calls’ into a mini computer, with easy access to the internet. We are the first generation of teachers, parents and students to negotiate such technology. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can all now interact all day every day, which is useful, but it is also requires this considered thought around appropriate and responsible use that I have communicated on – including safety.
Middle School students at St John’s participate in a range of Cyber Safety initiatives. All students participate in IT classes in Year 7. They receive targeted cyber safety training – from appropriate communication, how to manage time spent on ICTs, cyber bullying, digital footprints and virus protection. In Year 8 Health and Personal Development, students consider bullying, cyberbullying and cyber safety as part of the curriculum. The School also has a clear policy on Social Networking and use of the School’s Network.
The educational process around ICTs can also be modelled at home. There are multiple websites that can assist students and parents to understand the latest developments and recommendations.
To assist with the discussion, here is a summary of the recommendations for students and parents from the CyberSmart website:
- Think before you post, chat, upload or download
- Protect your privacy – know how to change privacy settings on social networks and don’t tell people your password.
- Once you post something, you can’t take it back. Keep all contributions appropriate as if they were face to face.
- Don’t share or post images and video without the permission of those involved.
- Sexting is illegal – possessing images of an explicit nature is a Police matter. Delete any such images immediately and do not distribute them.
- Do you know who you’re talking to? Make sure all your cyber friends are friends in real life.
- Do not use a webcam with people you do not know.
- If you are bullied online, take ‘screenshots’ of the inappropriate content and let an adult know.
- Cybersmart has confidential support and advice on their website
CyberSmart identifies several domains to alert and assist parents to safe ICT use in the home.
- Educate – Make your children aware of the risks and how to avoid potential problems of internet use. Talk to them about what contributions would be acceptable online.
- Empower – Encourage and support your children to explore the use of ICTs and the internet. This will help them to understand that they can speak with their parents if something happens that they are not comfortable with.
- Make the computer safe – Utilise filtering software to protect the home from malicious sites. Software such as K9 is an example that can be loaded onto the computer. The website opendns.com provide free filtering for families which can be provided at the computer or router/modem level
- Manage wireless connections – Know how to turn the modem off and learn how to change the access password. Some families do not reveal the new password until all chores or homework has been completed.
- Supervise – Set rules as a family where all internet use takes place in a public area. Laptops and mobile phones should not enter the bedroom.
- Be aware – know the potential of your child’s mobile phone and discuss the apps they have purchased.
- Model good practice – As a family, place all ICT devices together after, say, 8:30pm and let them charge overnight. Both students and parents need a break from the screen, especially when it is time to sleep. Do not allow any devices into the bedroom overnight.
ICT’s provide us with outstanding benefits; the internet has changed the way we communicate, find information and spend our free time. We can now communicate quickly and efficiently with each other, all over the world, instantaneously. I commend these published tips to you in assisting your child’s cyber safety.
Head of Middle School